Annie's Chronicles

My Stem journey: A Nail-Biting Journey
from Bias to Brilliance

In a world driven by technology and innovation, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education stands as a gateway to limitless possibilities. However, for young girls, pursuing STEM subjects has often been met with societal stereotypes and discouragement.

My journey, which began in Sri Lanka, underscores the importance of STEM education for girls and the need to challenge these stereotypes.

In my early education, I went to a semi-government convent school where I encountered the prevailing bias against girls studying IT. In grade 6, aged 11 we had to choose between home economics and IT. I vividly remember returning from IT classes only to face questions not only from students but also teachers saying, “How will you be a good wife if you don’t learn home economics? IT education won’t take you anywhere.” Yet, I persisted, and I’m immensely grateful that I did. It was a choice that paved the way for my future.

Transitioning to a private school a couple of years later marked a significant shift. There, I found an environment where choosing IT was not only accepted but actively encouraged. Still, I couldn’t help but feel that more could be done to promote STEM studies, especially among young women.

My journey took me to one of the leading universities in Sri Lanka, where I was the lone female student in my class. This experience made me realise that while progress was being made, there was a long road ahead, particularly in a developing country like Sri Lanka. The narrative didn’t quite change when I moved to the UK for my second year of university. Surrounded by a diverse student body, I was no longer alone, but I remained one of the very few female students in a sea of male counterparts.

Here’s a classic “damsel in distress” scenario that I’ve faced. I’ve had a few chivalrous souls in my classes who’ve kindly offered to “protect” my delicate nails from the harsh world of plugging things in. While I appreciate the concern, I must assure them that I’m not in need of a knight in shining armour. You see, I’ve got this—nails and all. In the kingdom of technology and innovation, I’m no damsel in distress waiting to be rescued. I’m here to save the day, one plug at a time, with my perfectly intact nails. But hey, I’ll take your advice on board, just in case I ever need a nail-saving hero.

This brings me to a crucial point: it’s essential to break this narrative. Women can excel in STEM fields just as well as men. While it’s easy to feel intimidated in male-dominated environments, it begins with believing in ourselves. Don’t get me wrong I still occasionally feel intimidated and this is part of an ongoing journey for me and for many others. But it’s a journey worth pursuing because, in STEM, as in life, challenges only make us stronger.

Breaking into male-dominated STEM fields, particularly in IT, requires a unique blend of determination, resilience, and self-belief. As women, we often find ourselves navigating uncharted territories, but that’s where our strength lies. It starts with embracing your passion for technology and the understanding that your voice and perspective are valuable contributions to the field. Be prepared to challenge stereotypes, and don’t shy away from showcasing your skills and knowledge. Networking is crucial, so build relationships with mentors and peers who can provide guidance and support. Continuous learning is a must, given the ever-evolving nature of technology. Embrace every opportunity to expand your skill set and stay up-to-date with industry trends. Finally, remember that your presence in STEM is a testament to breaking barriers, and your journey paves the way for future generations of women in IT. So, persevere, be unapologetically yourself, and let your brilliance shine in the world of STEM.

So, let’s actively promote STEM education among young girls, challenge stereotypes, and create opportunities for them to thrive. In doing so, we not only empower individual futures but also contribute to a more diverse and inclusive world of innovation and discovery. As women, we can, and we will achieve remarkable feats in STEM and beyond. The journey is ours to embrace, and the future is limitless.